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9 smart end-of-year financial planning tips

Finish 2022 on a financial high note

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The end of the year is a natural time to take stock of the past and look ahead to the future. Your finances should definitely be part of your reflection, so you can make sure to start out the new year on a financial high note. Here are some financial tips to consider before you ring in 2023.

1. Polish your budget

Take some time to review where your money is going and whether your current budget needs any adjustments. If your year brought big changes — whether that's a new job, a new hometown, or a new family member — there's a chance your spending has shifted. This is especially true given the recent economic shifts. "Rising prices may have soaked up whatever additional income came from your last pay increase, leaving you wondering where all the money is going," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at consumer finances company Bankrate. "Make a monthly budget for 2023 and resolve to track your spending against it throughout the year," McBride added.

2. Set savings goals for the year ahead

Make note of any major expenses you're expecting in the next year, and figure out how you can start saving up in advance. You might also check in on your emergency fund. "As a general rule of thumb, you want to have three to six months of your living expenses in a liquid account to cover anything unexpected that may happen in your life," Kiplinger notes.

3. Tackle your debts

Ideally, you would have made some progress toward paying down debt in 2022 — but if you haven't, ignoring it won't make it go away. If you're in the former camp, give yourself a pat on the back. And if you're in the latter, make a plan to start tackling your debt head-on. Perhaps you can look into common debt payoff strategies like the debt snowball or debt avalanche, or you could consider picking up a side hustle to generate some extra income to throw at your debt.

4. Request and review your free annual credit report

While you can technically do this at any time of the year, it might be easier to remember if you do it around the same time annually. Each year, you get a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Take a moment to look this report over. Look out for any errors or potential signs of identity theft.

5. Look over your retirement plan 

Give your retirement plan a glance. See if you're contributing enough to be on track for retirement and to secure your employer match, if your company offers one. Consider stepping up your contributions for next year, even if it's just by 1 percent. 

Per Kiplinger, the 401(k) contribution maximum is increasing in 2023 "to $22,500, with a $7,500 catchup amount if you're over the age of 50, so take that into account when you're planning out your contribution amounts."

Also note that December 31 is your last chance to contribute to your 401(k) for the year. If you have any extra funds laying around — say, from an end-of-year bonus — you still have time to max out your 401(k) plan for 2022. 

6. Consider a Roth conversion

Depending on your financial situation, a Roth IRA conversion could make sense. This is the process by which you transfer retirement funds from a traditional IRA, SEP, or 401(k) into a Roth account, which is tax-exempt and has no early-withdrawal penalty. According to Kiplinger, this could make sense in 2022 given that it's "a unique year because markets are down, and when they rebound, you'll end up with more shares that could potentially grow in a tax-free vehicle."

Just note that you'll need to pay income taxes on the funds you convert to a Roth. If you're unsure, talk to a financial planner to see if this move makes sense.

7. Check FSA spending and HSA contributions

Often, the money in flexible spending accounts (FSA) is money you either use or lose — meaning those funds won't roll over into 2023. If you have any money remaining in your FSA, use it up during the final weeks of the year on qualified medical expenses. 

And if you have a health savings account (HSA), check in on your contributions. Per Insider: "In the short term, you may be able to lower your taxable income when you contribute to accounts like a health savings account (HSA) if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, a 401(k), or a traditional IRA."

8. Review your estate plan and insurance policies

Estate planning and insurance aren't something you should set and forget — take some time at the end of the year to review them. There's a chance your needs may have changed during the year, or that something needs updating.

For insurance, make sure you have the level of coverage necessary, and consider whether you want to adjust your deductible. Per Kiplinger, it's "also a good idea to price out insurance coverage occasionally to make sure that you're receiving a good price for your coverage."

And as for your estate plan, you'll first want to make sure you actually have one in place. For those who do, make sure your beneficiaries are up-to-date and that your documents are all in the same location and easily findable.

9. Give some money to charity

Last but certainly not least, look outside of your own financial situation to that of others. For those who are able to give, consider making a charitable donation.

Not only is the end of the year a natural time to donate, but it's also smart tax-wise — any check dated or credit card charge made before December 31 counts toward the year's tax deduction. Just make sure to hold onto your receipts, because "if you itemize your deductions on your tax return, you can claim those donations to lower your tax bill," Kiplinger says

Becca Stanek has worked as an editor and writer in the personal finance space since 2017. She has previously served as the managing editor for investing and savings content at LendingTree, an editor at SmartAsset and a staff writer for The Week. This article is in part based on information first published on The Week's sister site, Kiplinger.com

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